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Populations looking good for this year’s ice fishing season



North Dakota – Anglers are getting excited for ice fishing at this time of year.

When there isn’t much snow and access is available, 25% of all licensed anglers will go ice fishing during a typical fishing season. The weather has been cooperative so far this year, and the fish numbers appear to be doing well.

“Across the state, our walleye populations are still maintaining pretty well. We didn’t really lose very many walleye populations last year with the extreme winter conditions that we had, so we pulled through there pretty well and I think things are maintaining quite well,” said Scott Gangl, fisheries supervisor for the North Dakota Game and Fish Department.

How are the populations of northern pikes doing this year?

“I think where people are used to fishing for pike and finding pike, they’ll find pike again this winter. With those winterkill conditions that we had last year, again, pike are a pretty hearty fish, and I think that they should be able to find some pike out there and some of the traditional spots,” said Gangl.

Five years ago, when there were many perch lakes and good fish quality, perch populations peaked.

“We do still have quality perch on the landscape. People are going to be able to go out and find perch in a lot of places, but they’re not going to be as abundant or numerous as before. A lot of that Barnes County and Stutsman County, a lot of those newer lakes down there still have really good perch populations, and I think that’s probably going to be the heart of our perch fishing for the coming months,” said Gangl.

The Game and Fish Department website has an abundance of information for fisherman.

“If you go to our website on our Where to Fish page, you can search by lake, there’s information in there. All the biologists are updating that information and putting in current status of the fish, so that you can kind of get a feel for what to expect when you get out there. Starting sometime around mid-December, we’re going to have our netting survey results posted for the lakes that we did net this summer,” said Gangl.

Ice anglers had a difficult winter last year due to Mother Nature, but things look better this year.

“I think as long as we don’t have a lot of snow and access is good to these lakes, I think we’ll have a really good ice fishing year and I’m kind of looking forward to it,” said Gangl.

Residents of North Dakota are eligible for a free ice fishing weekend on December 30-31, during which they can fish without a license. This weekend is still the time to abide by all laws and guidelines.